We never forget our best teachers. But do we remember to thank them for what they’ve done for us?
I need a reminder to thank the teachers in my life, as well as to thank those currently teaching my elementary-school-aged kids. Tuesday, May 5, is National Teacher Day, which offers me both reminder and opportunity.
We all have at least a few teachers in our lives that truly changed the way we think — either about ourselves or about the world outside ourselves. And if we have kids, we’re usually lucky enough to see their growth and learning under the guidance of their teachers.
While we all learn from a variety of people, in honor of National Teacher Day, I want to thank those who’ve accepted the challenge of education as a career — particularly those who’ve earned my never-ending gratitude by teaching my kids.
Study after study reveals that the single most important factor in the quality of a child’s education is the quality of his or her teachers. I feel blessed by the teachers who’ve contributed to my kids’ education so far. While the Asheville City Schools system is far from perfect (what school system is?), as long as the schools continue to hire and support exemplary teachers, I can’t complain (too much).
As I’ve mentioned before, I’d make a horrendous home-schooling parent. I have tremendous respect for those who do it, but I’d go nuts. Plus, while I can break down and analyze a paragraph, I’m not sure if I could teach a kid how to read one. Thank goodness there were trained professionals around to teach my kids how to read.
I especially appreciate my kids’ teachers because they’ve chosen to teach elementary-aged children. Dealing with kids whose brains are developing quickly in so many areas, except for their pre-frontal lobes (the site of logic and long-term planning), takes tremendous patience and focus.
After about 20 minutes in my kids’ classrooms, I’m dazed and exhausted-especially after hanging with the high-energy 5- to 7-year-olds. I’m also amazed by the easy-going attitude combined with firm, yet gentle, control of these teachers. My boy’s teacher simply claps her hands in a pattern, and a roomful of kindergartners and first-graders immediately stop what they’re doing (including talking) and repeat the pattern back to her. Then they listen to whatever she has to say. It’s magic.
And these elementary years are so important. Regardless of how old you are, I bet you can name at least three or four of your elementary school teachers. I can, though some of the names of teachers who came later are lost to me.
I’ve taught, though I don’t think of myself as a teacher. I don’t have the passion and persistence of a great teacher. Also, teaching remains the hardest job I’ve ever had. In addition to teaching, I’ve been a journalist (film, TV and print), worked in educational communications and development, and been a bookseller (I’m leaving out a number of short-term jobs). But I still have nightmares about the ninth-grade English classes that I taught when I was a naïve and inexperienced 23-year-old – dreams that include not being prepared, losing control of the class, and the worst-realizing I’m teaching nekkid in front of a class of giggling 13-year-olds.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a number of great teachers. Mrs. Conant taught me the beauty and power of poetry in fifth grade; Mr. Bain helped me understand that math isn’t a foreign language in eighth grade; Dr. McAlexander taught me how to find deeper meaning in literature and write analytically in college; Dr. Fink taught me how to construct a news story and when to break the rules in J-school.
This is a short list, and I thank all these folks and the many other teachers who’ve taken the time to push me along my life’s path. And I acknowledge and appreciate those doing the same for my kids.
Give your or your kids’ teachers some love this week. As our good friend Anonymous says, “A good teacher is like a candle — it consumes itself to light the way for others.”
Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.